ON DECEMBER 5, the City Council approved the City’s legislative priorities for the 2017 state legislative session. The priorities provide policy direction to guide staff in determining support or opposition to specific legislation. Why does the City care so much about what happens in Olympia? Because many decisions made in Olympia have direct and indirect impacts on the City's ability to provide services to the Shoreline community.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY AND FLEXIBILITY – The City is advocating a more self-sufficient model where cities have more control over their revenue streams. Cities need to be able to plan for funding from one year to the next; providing cities more local financial flexibility allows each jurisdiction to make their own choices of how to fund local services. An example is the 1% property tax cap. The cap does not keep pace with inflation and restricts cities’ ability to maintain services. Setting a limit that is tied to tangible numbers, such as inflation and population growth, which drive costs, would allow cities to better maintain existing services.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING, HOMELESSNESS, AND A STRAINED MENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SYSTEM – Cities throughout the state are struggling with increasing homeless populations. The lack of affordable housing and a poorly funded mental health and substance abuse system have only exacerbated the problem. Shoreline, like many cities, struggles to address these problems with very limited resources.
Washington has a high prevalence of mental illness, but a low level of access to care. As a result, it often falls on our Shoreline Police and Fire Departments and the court system to address mental health problems threatening public safety. This is very expensive and does not address the underlying mental health issue, ensuring the problem not only persists, but also potentially gets worse. The City is asking the legislature to provide the resources needed to address these issues or provide cities with more options for addressing the issues themselves.
INVEST IN PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES – Protect our communities by investing in core public health services. The 40% per capita decrease in public health funding since 1999 is reaching crisis levels across the state. The funding shortfall has left Public Health–Seattle & King County unable to fully investigate disease outbreaks. The Washington State Department of Health is requesting $54 million for local public health jurisdictions to fill critical gaps in disease prevention and response, and to pilot shared services to improve the efficiency of the overall system.
SUPPORT HUMAN SERVICES SAFETY NET – Over the past few years, the need for more human services has grown substantially in our community. As the state and other funders have cut support for basic human services agencies operating costs, the City has had to step in to help-out. For instance, last year, the City contributed $26,000 in additional funding (on top of its regular payment of $95,708) to the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center to make up for cuts from other agencies. Again, the City either needs the state to step up and help address these issues or provide more tools for cities to address the issues.
REVISE PUBLIC RECORDS ACT – The City supports open and transparent government; however, public records act laws have not kept up with changes in technology and they do not account for the growing number of broad, voluminous, commercially driven, or retaliatory requests that utilize a disproportionate amount of city resources. Last year, for the first time, Shoreline had to hire staff just to keep up with records requests. This isn’t just a Shoreline issue, but is one impacting cities across the State. Cities need additional tools to address the increasing pressure on city resources.
INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING – Over the past few years, the Legislature has diverted funding for City infrastructure programs to the state's general fund. The Public Works Trust Fund allowed cities to utilize low interest loans or grants to complete infrastructure projects at a significantly lower cost due to lower interest rates than could be obtained elsewhere. Without this support, it will be more difficult for Shoreline and other cities to maintain our infrastructure. Local taxpayers will pay significantly more in financing costs for the same work, if the City can afford it at all.2017 Legislative Priorities Staff Report